Many a times, the so called Christian institutions fall back into a kind of anarchism which lead into narcissism. we do not want rules. Rules, sometimes, treated as a modus operandi to subjugate and exploit others. What could be the reason for such obnoxious attitude towards others?
The primary reason our complacent and hypocritical relationship with God which leads to pride, and selfish attitude. The secondary reason is untamed materialism which leads to greed and corruption. When these two reasons merged with power, it creates, such a great oppressive force that it eventually will be consumed by its own.
It is in such context, we are confronted with two greatest commandments that which Christ summarized the whole of Torah and the prophets. It is ‘LOVE.’
Let me illustrate you with the concept of ‘Image of God.” Gen. 1:27 says that man was made in the image of God. Image of God has three relational dimensions. One is God-man, man-man and man to natures. Sin has distorted our image and so also our relationship with God was broken and the rest followed. To restore this broken image God sent his only son for us to die on the Cross which is the ultimate expression of love. Our image has been restored. Now the point is restoration in us starts with realization that you and I were made in the image of God. Realization starts with feeling of guilt because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, then it leads to confession and repentance. It is only at the feet of the Cross, as we realize our nothingness, indeed, we realize that God has created us in His image. When we realize that we were made in the Image of God, we realize our neighbor bears the same image as ours. Therefore, we will be able to love our neighbor. In a nutshell, we will be able to love our neighbor only when we truly love God.
Therefore, we need to intero-reterospect into our own lives, our institutions, and our churches. Are we sliding into Anarchism or embracing ‘divine love’ paradigm that God has set before us? Answer it before it is too late!
When God doesn’t make sense: A Brief Study on the Book of Habakkuk
Let me start with a rather depressive incident that took place on May 29th at Biratnagar, Nepal. An 11 year old girl has been raped by her neighbour for about 7 months. She gave birth to 28 week baby boy who died on 30th May. Women and child activists were wrestling with the thought whether the offender should get life imprisonment or not. Just imagine the agony of the girl. Before the sun has set on the same day, 15 people killed and 31 injured in a bus accident in Sindhupalchowk, a remote district in Nepal. Elsewhere in Kathmandu, Nepal on the same day, dalits were attacked for entering temple and it was believed that the police, who are guardians of the law, sided with upper caste people. If you see into our own history, under Maoist regime, more than 20,000 people were killed. King was assassinated in his very own palace. There is a political crisis. Internal corruption- outside and inside the church.
On the other hand, the frustration that arises out of the silence of God. Unanswered prayers- sometimes you may have to hear a big slam of the door for your prayers. Wicked are prospering in front of our very eyes. Sickness and death engulfs our lives-even the righteous were not exempted. Can you stop yourself from protesting against God by asking where is He, when innocent were being butchered? Why He is not responding to our prayers? Is there a hope for the righteous? How should a believer conduct his/her faith in the face of such calamities? Our churches are very dexterous in guarding God against such protests. But scripture tells us that God invites such protests too. Keeping this in mind, I would like to entitle this paper as “When God doesn’t make sense.”
This is going to be a brief study into the book of Habakkuk who struggled with the same questions and issues that we, as believers are facing today. I would invite you to join me in this journey how God led Habakkuk from “Protest to Praise.”
II. Context: When God didn’t make sense
Externally, Israel, the sister of Judah was completely wiped out by Assyria in 724 BC. Habakkuk lived at the time of “rising up of the Babylonians.” They destroyed Assyria and Nineveh and heading towards Judah. The suitable time was the time of the reign of Jehoiakim. Habakkuk was a contemporary to Nahum, Zephaniah and Jeremiah.
Internally, the situation was even worse. Judah witnessed the downfall and exile of her northern sister Israel slightly more than a century ago. Still Judah hasn’t learned anything. There was repeated violation of covenant of God. They are inflicting violence on each other. Law itself was disabled as the institutions which are to guard it, got corrupted.
It is in such a context we hear voice. Unlike other prophets, Habakkuk vents out his frustration on God rather than on king and people for allowing such things. Very little is known about the prophet. The Hebrew meaning of his name is “embrace.” Some say that his name is Akkadian name which means “garden plant.” Some say he is a cultic prophet. I feel he is just a voice who appears suddenly and challenges God for what He is doing only to be led by God from “Protest-Praise.”
III. Protest in faith: Habakkuk. 1
A. Protest of the prophet- Hab. 1: 1-5
The book starts as “the oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.” The Hebrew word that is used here indicates other meaning for “oracle.” It is “burden.” The message is a “burden” that was laid on his heart. Habakkuk did not hesitate to go to God and lay his burden. Other word that needs our attention is “saw.” The Hebrew meaning of this word is “to see, perceive with understanding, seeing and hearing.” This world has revelatory character. In simple words, Habakkuk has burden and he laid it down in front of God and God revealed him, His divine plan. It was the faith in God that drove Habakkuk to lay his burden in front of God.
Now, let’s see in detail the protest that he is making against God. If we observe the questions that he is raising “how long” and “why” we understand that he has already been praying for an answer and there was utter silence from God. This has frustrated him. He was frustrated over God’s silence that was silent when the law was made numb (v. 4), violence was on rampage, wicked outnumbered the righteous, justice was perverted and righteous suffer.
B. God’s response- Hab. 1: 6-11
God responds to Habakkuk. His response doesn’t make sense to Habakkuk. One should notice that God addresses not just to Habakkuk but to the people. In the Hebrew text it is very much evident. Habakkuk raised issue as an individaul but God answered to the people among whom Habakkuk is one. In other words, Habakkuk is a voice who represents the righteous suffering.
God agrees to whatever Habakkuk protested as we see the absence of rebuke from God. That shows God’s sympathy over the suffering of the righteous. What God is doing here is that He is preparing Habakkuk to “witness the awesomeness of His grand plan in (V. 5).” In v. 6, God identifies specifically the instruments of His judgment on Judah. In Vv. 6b-11, God describes them with as many as twenty details. They are Babylonians on the march. Babylonians are oppressive in their nature. One man of God said, “Their oppressive ways shall be fitting judgment for oppressive.”
C. Remonstration of the prophet- Hab. 1: 12-17
This was not Habakkuk was expecting from God. He was perplexed and frightened even more at the prospect of another invasion. He has already witnessed what has happened to Israel. He remonstrates with God. He argues with God. How can God do this? Habakkuk asked God “How long?” God said, “Very soon.” Habakkuk asked “where is justice?” God said, “I am establishing justice by rising up Babylonians against my own beloved people.”
For the second time, Habakkuk argues but very carefully. First, he expresses his confidence in God in V. 12 and then he questions God’s plan of judgment Vv. 13-17. Habakkuk found a glaring contradiction between his own experience of God’s goodness and this latest revelation of God’s intention. This is not an indication of weak faith or bitter cynicism. A bitter cynicism doesn’t believe and protests but do not wait for the answer. Habakkuk’s remonstration then “believing confrontation” which refuse to deny and protests but doesn’t move until the answer is given.
In a nutshell, Habakkuk was puzzled. He is one who protested against God for the violence in his land. He was surprised by the way God has planned to establish justice through dreadful and most dangerous Babylonians.
D. Spiritual application
Many a times the praise and worship in our churches are very pretentious. Sometime we were asked to put all our worries and suffering outside the church and just imagine God in our hearts. Whom are we fooling- God or ourselves? How can I be happy when I lose someone whom I dearly love? Habakkuk 1 reveals that God invites our frustrations and burdens to be laid on the altar. So, let’s not pretend that we are happy in the presence of God when we are not but let’s bring all our burdens to the altar of praise. That’s what I call “Praise with tears.”
I don’t know how many of you know the story behind this hymn “It is well with my soul.” This hymn has been a blessing to so many in their trails and temptations. It was penned down by Horatio Spafford who is into ministry. He is close friend of D. L. Moody. Spafford was a wealthy lawyer in Chicago. He has big estate, beautiful wife Anna, four daughters and a son. At the height of his professional success they lost their son. Very shortly after that his estate was burned in a fire accident. Still he wanted to involve in ministry with Moody and other in Chicago but decided to send his wife and daughters to Europe to recover from the loss. He sends his wife and four daughters in a ship only to know after few days that the ship met with an accident and only his wife survived. With a heavy heart Spafford boarded a boat to meet his grieving wife who is in Europe. It was at that time He wrote this song-
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
This is praise with tears. Praise with burden. Praise with sorrow. Only God knows how deep the wound has inflicted our hearts.
IV. Persevere in Faith—Hab. 2
A. Bracing oneself for God’s response V. 1
Habakkuk said what he wanted but he said it only after recognizing God’s sovereignty. He protested in faith. He thought God would rebuke him. Habakkuk braces himself. He takes his stand as if he is going to face the storm. He is watching and waiting for God’s response.
B. Living by Faith Vv. 2-5
To his and our surprise, God answers him very gently. God gives him vision. It is a vision of hope. Habakkuk was asked to write the vision on tablets. It shows that the vision has not only immediate significance but also it is significant for the future generation. So also it is to our generation.
God said, “For there is still a vision for the appointed time, it speaks of the end, and does not lie.” God assures Habakkuk by saying that the vision ‘speaks’ of the end, and doesn’t lie. The original Hebrew meaning for the ‘speak’ is to “utter, breath or pant.” In other words, “vision is panting/running for its fulfilment.” It shows God’s commitment to bring it to pass.
The word ‘end’ has double meaning. One is immediate end of Babylonia and other is God’s final intervention in history. But before this immediate end, troubles will increase; have to face invasion, devastation, deportation and slavery. In other words, the end of Babylonians and the return of God’s people are penultimate. Ultimate end is the coming of Jesus the Messiah in all his glory. In a sense Habakkuk’s vision is still panting.
Let’s continue our study. Now coming to the phrase “it seems to tarry,” from human vantage, it may seem a long wait but in God’s eyes it is not. It is written “a thousand year in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as watch in the night.” (Ps. 90: 4 cf. 2 Pet. 3:10) God is beyond time, space and matter but sensitive to human perception of time.
Watching and waiting are fundamental ingredients of faith. Now, we are going to touch the watchword of Christian Gospel- “the righteous live by their faith” in v. 4. I was very much surprised by the way this verse suddenly emerges out from nowhere. The preceding verse talks about the proud and the following, about violence by the wicked.
What do we understand by this? Habakkuk, a voice representing righteous in midst of the proud and violence, protests in faith to God and stands firm to have an answer from Him. That’s where this particular verse come-sandwiched between proud, violence and evil world. It is a kind of “pure light in the darkness.”
In the midst of corruption, violence, a world where wickedness is considered virtuous, we may ask why I should follow God. In the midst of unanswered prayers, death in the family, sickness and other problems, we may ask- what is the point of worshipping God, when He doesn’t make sense!
Let us probe into this tricky and very difficult issue. Firstly, if you observe in V. 4, the first part talks about self-esteemed and proud people which can be identified as Babylonians. They are their own gods. They have no accountability. They are cruel and dreadful. In Hab. 1:13, Habakkuk protested saying, “Why do you look on when the wicked swallow the righteous?” To that God answers, “No! the righteous shall live by faith.”
We need to ask, then, who are righteous? How can I be deemed as righteous? Can I become righteous by my own effort? What is living by faith? What is faith? Let me unwrap these questions with suitable answers. Firstly, we need to understand the fundamental truth that the source of righteousness always remains outside the person. Only when one believes in God and accepts Him, he/she is justified. Therefore, faith, in that sense is “origin of righteousness in justification.” Secondly, the life that continues after justification is “living by faith.” Therefore, Faith, in that sense is continuation of righteousness in sanctification.
In simple words, I am not righteous because of my goodness. I am righteous because God’s gracious act of salvation that saved me. It is from and through such faith, I live. Therefore, it is by the faithfulness of God, I am righteous and by the same I live. Pride leads to death. Proud, wicked and violent people journey towards death, but the righteous shall live by faith. The righteous also die, suffer in this wicked world. Habakkuk died and so also we do. But there is life beyond the grave those who trust in God. That is the power of Christ’s resurrection. It is a great reversal from death to life. Therefore, the just shall live by faith.
In a nutshell, let me summarize, how this is related to the hopeless situation that Habakkuk is going to face. Habakkuk faced the prospect of devastation. Revelation of God revealed that they shall live. Who shall live? Those who were justified by faith shall live. In other words, God is calling Habakkuk and the righteous, to “hold on to our faith when He doesn’t make sense.” For that we need to watch and wait.
C. Spiritual application
We are called to persevere in faith. Waiting and watching for God needs perseverance. Things may go from bad to worse. Our former Principal in UBS, Dr. Samson Parekh, lost his eldest son when he was 8 year old. After many years they were blessed with another baby boy. When he was working in UBS, his second son was 19. His name is Norman. After him, they had two more boys. Suddenly, one day a tractor crushed his head and he died instantly. Whole campus was depressed looking at their loss. After one month we conducted memorial service, in that service, both Dr. Parekh and his wife, said, “God has given and He has taken. Even if he takes the other two, we still follow Him.” I reflected my own faith then. I felt my faith was so weak. That is what I call living by faith but they were made righteous before. This is “Faith in trembling.”
V. Praise in fath—Hab.3
A. A Psalm of submission Vv. 1-16
This prayer indicates that the prophet has now no further case to make. He has pleaded his cause. He has concluded his dialogue with the Almighty. Now, he leads people to an acceptance of the just and merciful orderings which the Lord has revealed. Habakkuk’s protest was responded. He is awe of God’s response. God didn’t make sense but He did when He revealed His plan. However, to receive such revelation, one should wait and watch in spite of hardships.
B. “Though-Yet” praise Vv. 17-19
Now, his protest was transformed into praise. This praise is not out of the abundance of blessings but in the lack of it. If you see verse 17, Habakkuk, recognized and accepted the coming loss and yet he chose to praise God with joy. It is because God is His salvation and strength. He is the source of life. The righteous shall live by God’s faithfulness. Habakkuk learned to rejoice, not in particular quantity or quality of blessings, but in God Himself. Habakkuk learned that in spite of loss of material blessing, yet he can still rejoice. He can also have confidence in the person of God who is the source of every being. He calls God as “my salvation and my strength.” By this Habakkuk is expressing his confidence in the Lord who ultimately will accomplish eschatological deliverance. The journey from protest to praise is because of God’s sovereign grace. Nothing can explain a person to be joyful in the face of calamity. Only God is big enough to provide the grace of life to people of this generation and the generations to come by the faith that justifies.
C. Spiritual application
In our Christian spiritual journey, many a times we love and praise God through our expectations on Him. But Habakkuk was led from Protest to “though-yet” worship. Though there are no showers of blessing, yet I will praise God. Do you think Habakkuk praised God with a big smile on his face? No! Not yet all. With all his burden and tears in his eyes, he praised God. That’s what we need today- “Faith with trembling and praise with tears.” If you are going through hopeless situation, or lost someone that you dearly loved, illness and financial crisis, bring your burden to Him and praise Him with tears with a trembling faith.
We started our journey by asking “when God doesn’t make sense” how should we respond? Evil prospers and righteous perish- where is God, when it hurts. These questions plague our minds. A brief study of the book Habakkuk led us from protest in faith, to perseverance in faith and finally to praise in faith. To reach to that final stage is not easy. It is possible only by the grace of God and our faith and trust in God.
In Habakkuk 1, the prophet asked- “How long and why.” In the 2nd chapter, God said, “trust me and have faith.” In the 3rd chapter, you see a changed Habakkuk- “he learned to wait in faith.” Finally as I close, I would like to share a true story about a little boy who was suffering from lung cancer. He must 8 or 9 year old. He was admitted into hospital for treatment and a nurse was provided. Lung cancer was very terrifying. It causes breathlessness due to inflow of fluid into the lungs. The little boy had a Christian mother who loved him so dearly and stayed with him all through his suffering. She used to cradle her son and talk softly about the love of God. She is actually preparing him for the final hours. One day when the nurse entered his room as death approached, she heard this boy talking about hearing bells ring. Again he was talking about the bells ringing, the next time the nurse entered the room.
Then the nurse told his mother that he is hallucinating. His mother pulled her son to her chest, smiled and said, “No, nurse. He is not hallucinating. I told him when he was frightened-when he couldn’t breathe- if he would listen carefully, he could hear the bells of heaven ringing for him, That’s what he is talking about all the day long. That precious child died on his mother’s lap later that evening and he was talking about the bells of heaven when the angels came to take him. That’s exactly what I call “faith with trembling and praise with tears.
It is my prayer that we will be free to bring our burdens to God’s throne with a trembling faith and with confidence and trust in God; only to praise Him in tears as HE is only one who is big enough to wipe our tears away. Rejoice in your suffering.
The role of the church is a “synthesis” of Missional imperative as proclamation of the word and the social action in the contemporary world. However, the role of the church in the contemporary world has been dichotomized by Evangelicals and Ecumenicals over the prioritization of proclamation of the Gospel and the social responsibility of the church in one way or the other. This created a dichotomy of view in relation to the “message of the Gospel.” Is the message of the Gospel only for the personal salvation or is it for the transformation of the society? Is the message of the Gospel calls for the transformation of the soul as well as the structures of the society? We would be dealing these questions in detail as we talk about the evangelical thought of social action and ecumenical thought of social action and the at the end we would like to propose “synthesis” of these views as “Biblical mandate” which the church should assimilate into its role in the contemporary world for an holistic transformation.
The methodology employed would be an analytical study of the historical development of the thought of social action among the Evangelicals and Ecumenical. At the end we would like to propose “synthesis” of kerygma of the word and diakonia in relation to role of the church in the contemporary world.
c. Overview of the paper
We start with the definitions of the Church juxtaposing word and deed dimension as her role in the contemporary world, thereby whenever the term church is used; it should be understood in way that we would be defining in the paper. We also define Gospel which is to be understood in a way we have defined. In the third section, we will be analyzing the historical development of the thought social action among Evangelicals and Ecumenicals and finally we would call for the rethinking and re-articulating the role of the church as a “synthesis” of word and deed in order to have a holisitic transformation in the contemporary world.
We do know that the word Church comes from a Greek word Kyriakon which means Lord’s house. In other words it is a church building. In the New Testament a different word has been used i. e., ekklesia which means an assembly or gathering (Acts 19: 32; 39, 41). Our concern in this paper is to understand the role of the church in relation to the missions. Therefore, in this paper we would like define Church as a spiritual entity called out into the world to serve the world with a synthesis of proclamation of the word and social action. As the Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “The church is the church only when it exists for others…” In other words the church should address the spiritual and social needs of the society.
The word Gospel comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “god-spell” which means God’s story. In other words Gospel is a glad tidings of God’s redemptive activity in and through the life, work and resurrection of Jesus Christ. . References to good news or glad tidings are found both in Old Testament and New Testament. The Simple meaning of these uses is that it is a message or a proclamation which brings joy to the hearers. In the Old Testament the Prophets conveyed the good news of salvation to the people of Israel. In New Testament the person of Jesus Christ became the incarnate Gospel. The angelic proclamation in Luke 2:10 convey the good news as the birth of the Messiah, the way of salvation for all humankind. We would like to prefer a synthesis of glad tidings of personal salvation as well as glad tidings of structural transformation in the meaning of the Gospel. According to R. C. White, Jr. “Gospel is proclamation of God’s redemptive activity in Jesus Christ to a world enslaved by sin.” This redemption is of two-fold- individual redemption from sin and structural redemption from sin.
III. Historical Development of the thought of social action
A. Dichotomy between the “two mandates”
1. Evangelistic mandate
According to David J. Bosch, to understand the dichotomy of evangelism and social responsibility, it is necessary to distinguish between evangelistic mandate and social mandate. Evangelistic mandate is all about the proclamation of the Gospel or it is the call to obey the commissioning of Jesus Christ to proclaim the good news of salvation. In other words Evangelical mandate has a “preoccupation” of individual salvation which has more priority than social action. Wesly Ariarajah opines that,
“…the salvation of individuals, especially from their sinful situation, to a life of commitment and obedience to Christ, is seen to be almost the primary mission of the Church.”
In other words, Evangelistic mandate is more concerned about individual transformation than the structural transformation.
It should also be noted that the Evangelical mandate is based on the “Greatest commission” of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28: 19; Mark 16: 15). However, the evangelical mandate gives less attention the “Greatest commandment” ‘(Matt. 22: 36-40) which calls a believer to love his/her neighbors which presupposes social action. John Stott authenticates this view by opining that
“…the church’s mission is to be modeled on the Son’s, implies that we are sent into the world to serve, and that the humble service we are to render will include for us it did for Christ both words and works…”
In other words, John Stott has observed an dichotomy between the words and works of the mission of the Church.
It is imperative for us to inquire whether this phenomenon is persistent from the beginning of the time when “evangelicals” started forming a “separate self-identity. Therefore, we will venture into the historical development of the thought of social action of evangelicals.
a. Evangelical thought of Social action
We will be looking into the development of the thought of Social action among evangelicals based on their various conferences over the period 1970- 1990. The under gridded thought of evangelicals is that the structural transformation is an outcome of evangelism. The dichotomy of the word and deed can be traced back to August 19th 1846, where evangelicals began to exist as a separate identity. This event of gathering is considered as a “landmark in history.” Approximately 100 years after, in 1951, we can see the formation of International Evangelical alliance as the World Evangelical fellowship. We would like to present three basic streams of evangelical thought of social action in relation to so called “evangelical forerunner,” “the great reversal,” and re-discovery of social reference. Keeping the vastness of the subject matter, we would be as brief as possible but we will be highlighting the progression of social thought among evangelical movements.
‘Evangelical forerunners’ according to Jacob Thomas, are those individuals who grappled with the word and deed dichotomy. Evangelical forerunners as a “wider evangelism” were the result of social reform movements and evangelical missionary movements in Europe and North America between 17th and 19th centuries. This wider evangelism has two great awakenings between 1726- 1825. The social thought of these movements is “…preaching the Gospel in ways that addressed people’s needs in specific social contexts.” According to Ruth Rouse and Stephen Neill, these great awakenings resulted in the birth of various missionary societies which had a great effect on social reform. Evangelical forerunner like William Wilberforce, William Carey, Christian Blumhardt and John Wesly had blended “word and deed” in their evangelism.
The second stream of evangelism is “Great reversal.” As the evangelical forerunners blended word and deed dimension into the role of Church, this “great reversal” can be termed as a “negative” movement to the first stream of evangelism. This stream of evangelistic thought has prioritized proclamation of the Gospel. This is due to rise of pre-millenial view which is an outcome of pessimism in the context of war and shattered political and social structures. Theological liberalism was seen as “great betrayal.” Social Gospel movement which is predominantly inspired from the writings of Walter Rauschenbusch was seen as superficial by Evangelicals.
The third stream of thought in the progression of social thought among evangelicals is their attempt to rediscover the social reference between 1960- early 1970s. The context during this time is industrialization, urbanization, and fight for human rights, revolutionary movements and opposition against colonial and imperialistic attitudes of the oppressive structures of the society. It is in this context the evangelicals were compelled to think and rethink the task of evangelism which involves social action along with the kerygma. This phenomenon of rediscovery can be seen in different conferences since 1960s.
The first one was Wheaton Congress which met in 1966, in Illinois, USA. This conference confessed of their guilt of ignoring the social responsibility and emphasized that scriptural principles be applied to address social evils in the society. However, this conference has not suggested how to blend word and deed without minimizing the priority of proclaiming the Gospel.
The second one was the world congress gathered in Berlin 1966. This gathering has not contributed much to the rediscovery social responsibility. The basic thought of this gathering is “proclamation evangelism is the mission of the church.”
The third one is The U. S. Congress in Minneapolis, 1969. This gathering is no different than the world congress in Berlin as it also emphasized on the priority of preaching the Gospel. The context of this gathering is black revolution. One criticism against this gathering is that if the evangelism of the church does not address the issue of oppression over black man, then we need to suspect such evangelism.
The fourth one was the Latin American Congress in Bagota, 1969. This gathering has greatly contributed to awaken the need for social action of the church. The main theme of this gathering is “social responsibility of the church.”
The fifth one was in Frankfurt, 1970 where it was a gathering of German evangelical theologians and missiologists. The main theme of this gathering was supremacy of proclamation and social action as it’s “by product.” The background of this gathering was that of ecumenical conviction of theology of humanization which was declared in World Council of Churches, Uppsala, 1968.
The sixth one was in Chicago, 1973. This has awakened evangelicals of their social responsibility as social conscience. Many have received the Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social concern as “revolutionary call” calling the church to confess of her failure to portray God’s justice in the society.
The seventh one was the International Congress on World Evangelization met at Lausanne, Switzerland, 1974. This gathering rediscovered the evangelical thought of social action as socio-political involvement. The underlying thought of this commitment of this gathering is that Christians are called to participate and share in God’s concern for social justice.
Keeping in view the vastness of the subject, we would like to present the latest gathering i. e., the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held at Cape Town 2010. The major concern of this gathering is to “confront the critical issues of our time- other world faiths, poverty, HIV/ AIDS, persecution, among others as they related to the future of the church and world evangelization.” In this conference we do see a blend of word and deed with no confusion. This gathering has also viewed the life of the church as proclaiming the Gospel as well as to address the brokenness of this world.
2. Social Mandate
Social mandate as mission mandate is more concerned about the social concerns of the society. This mandate is also called as “cultural mandate.” This phenomenon can be seen in the prophetic concern towards injustice, corruption and violence in their respective times. It is strongly believed that the cultural development or the awareness to address social concerns would have not taken place if Christ had not set a paradigm of social action for us through his life, death and resurrection. Social mandate also presupposes “Christian transfiguration of social order.”
Social mandate points out to the God’s delegation of responsibility to Adam and Eve to rule creation (Gen. 1: 28). In other words, human beings were called to share God’s responsibility to rule creation. This mandate basically calls for the establishment of human relationships in the society, stewardship towards the creation, and enjoyment of God’s creation.
This mandate presupposes that man’s responsibility is not just confined to the four walls of the church but it extends to the all areas of life- social, economic, political and scientific. It also presupposes two dimensions to the fall of human kind-individual and corporate. In other words, sin exists in man individually as well as in the structures of the society. It also presupposes that the “cultural mandate remains in force and its implications for Christian mission are important.”
a. Ecumenical thought of social action
We will be looking in the Ecumenical response to the Evangelical thought of Social action. As we have observed a tension between the word and deed in the evangelical thought of social action historically in different gatherings. It was the proclamation of the word that often gained primacy in the evangelical thought though they have not completely rejected the need to address the social concerns.
The roots of Ecumenical movement are in the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh 1910. Keeping in view the vastness of the subject, we will be looking into some of the important conferences under WCC since from its formation. Since its formation WCC went through a process of evolution in its structure and function. In 1956, its functions can be categorized under “Faith and Witness; Justice and Service; and Education and Renewal.”
The first WCC Assembly which was held at Amsterdam, Netherlands on 22nd August to 4th September 1948 under the theme “Man’s disorder and God’s design.” The decision that has come out of this Assembly was to “stay together.” Ecumenicity (unity) was their basic concern as they have started to come together.
The second WCC Assembly was held at Evanston, USA under the theme “Christ- the Hope of the World.” This Assembly’s main concern is the relevance of Church’s visible unity in the world and her witness to the people outside the church. Witnessing is the key word of this Assembly.
The third WCC Assembly was a conglomeration of three ideas- unity, witness and service. This Assembly was held at New Delhi on 5th December 1961 under the theme “Jesus Christ- the light of the world.” The social concern towards the world became a prominence of significance. The outcome of this Assembly was its commitment to help “the poor and the distress.”
The fourth WCC Assembly was held at Uppsala, Sweden from 4th to 20th July 1968 under the theme of “Behold I make all things new.” Here the thought of social action has been redefined by their commitment to address the issue of social development, justice and peace in international affairs, worship, and towards new styles of living.
The fifth WCC Assembly was held at Nairobi, on 23rd November to 10th December under the theme “Jesus Christ Frees and unites.” The thought of social action of this assembly is for education, liberation and human development and socio-political and economic involvement and development.
The sixth WCC Assembly was held at Vancouver on 24th July to 10th August 1983 under the theme “Jesus Christ the life of the world.” The thought of social action of this assembly was its commitment to “justice, peace and the integrity of all creation.”
The seventh WCC Assembly was held at Canberra, Australia from 7th to 20th February 1991 under the theme “come, Holy Spirit- Renew the whole creation.” This Assembly has had a blend of ecclesial and social concerns like unity of the churches, Eucharist and ordained ministry and socio-political problems.
The eighth WCC Assembly was held in Harare, Zimbabwe in December 1998 under the theme of “turn to God- rejoice in hope.” The outcome of this Assembly was its re-dedication to its ecumenical vision. The thought of social action was broadened. It committed to “fight against dehumanization,” and also committed to protect the oppressed. Therefore the thought of social action in this assembly was “liberation and peace.”
Due to the primal focus on the social action by the Ecumenical’s, Evangelicals started a parallel movement which was discussed earlier. We do see a dichotomy of word and deed in both the movements. However, we do see some commonalities in both of the moments in their struggle to make Christianity relevant to the world at large. Keeping this in view we would venture into the next level where would like to address this dichotomy of word and deed and prefer a solution which has already been a trend in both of the movements.
IV. Rethink and Re-articulate the role of the Church
A. Synthesis of Kerygma amd Diakonia
We would like to re-emphasis what we have claimed at the beginning of this paper. The role of the church is a “synthesis” of Missional imperative as proclamation of the word and the social action in the contemporary world. John Stott says that,
“…broader concept of mission as Christian service in the world comprising both evangelism and social action- a concept which is laid upon us by the model of our savior’s mission in the world- then Christians could under God make a far greater impact on society…”
A synthesis was presupposed here. A synthesis between social mandate and evangelical mandate should be imbibed in Church’s role to carry missions in the contemporary world. There has to be a “convergence of conviction” as David J. Bosch puts it. The role of the church can also be understood in Paul S. Minear who says, “…the church received its being on the battle-line where it received its mandate.” Evangelicals who constantly criticized ecumenical’s of their ecumenical missiology as gospel-less and cross-less evangelism later on realized the importance of the social responsibility at Lausanne congress.
We can also see this synthesis of word and deed in the Bible. The Prophetic mandate of the Old Testament presupposes spirituality and need for social responsibility (Micah 6: 6-8). In the New Testament, the great commission involves a social responsibility as Jesus stands as a paradigm of this synthesis.
Paul S. Minear categorizes the role of the Church under nine headings- “Preaching, healing, testimony before governors and Kings, Peace-making, the breaking of bread and prayers, teaching, scriptural interpretation, “whatever you do,” “we rejoice in our suffering.” With these nine functions of the church Paul S. Minear creates a synthesis of word and deed.
Therefore, there is a need to rethink and rearticulate the role of the church based on the Biblical synthesis of Kerygma and Diakonia in its responsibility to carry out missions in the contemporary world. Firstly, this synthesis should be a Christo-centric synthesis as Jesus presents a model of this blend. Secondly, the church should reflect this synthesis in her witness, evangelism and service in the contemporary world.
B. Relevance of the synthesis in the contemporary world
The role of the church based on the synthesis of Kerygma and dialonia is very much relevant in Indian context. We find dehumanizing elements being active as well as the need to proclaim the Gospel is also demanding much attention. Christianity being a minority in India, in order to voice out against social evils, there is a need for unity among the churches. In order to have an effective evangelism (witness) the church needs to encourage and bring awareness among her members as of how to be a better witness in the world at large. The church should encourage its members to involve politics, professional carriers and other secular streams of life (service). Keeping the pluralistic context of the church in India, the church should renovate its role and discernment as of how, when and in what way she needs to proclaim the Gospel. Therefore the synthesis of the word and deed in the role of the church calls for unity of the churches, encourage her members to be better witnesses in the world at large, the need of innovative ways of evangelism and imbibe in her members the need for social action. Therefore the synthesis of Kerygma and diakonia in the role of the church will optimize her relevance in the contemporary world.
We have started out saying that the role of a church is a synthesis of word and deed. However, we do see a dichotomy between word and deed in the evangelical thought of social action and Ecumenical thought of social action in their respective gathering. Out of this dichotomised perspective of missions, there arose two parallel movements- Ecumenical and Evangelical. We have analysed this dichotomy from an historical perspective and also found out there was an attempt to avoid this dichotomy. The new thought of social action is synthesis of Kerygma and Diakonia. We do have a Biblical synthesis of mission as proclamation and service as a Biblical mandate of missions.
The synthesis is Christo-centric. Jesus presents us a paradigm of such synthesis. This calls church to rethink and rearticulate its role based on this synthesis which would be relevant to the contemporary world in terms of unity, witness and service.
The role of the church as a mission agent should address the person as a whole. Its mission should not be dichotomized or one sided but rather it should be holistic. According to Peter Vander Meulen, “the gospel is truly holistic and conveys a saving, reconciling grace not just for humans but indeed for ourselves as integral beings- indeed for all creation itself.” Therefore social action and evangelism together brings about a holistic transformation of the human soul, society and creation at large.
“About Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization”, n.d. http://www.lausanne.org/cape-town-2010/about.html.
Aigbe, Sunday. “Cultural Mandate, Evangelistic Mandate, Prophetic Mandate: of these the Greatest is…?” Missiology: An International Review XIX, no. 1 (1991): 32-43.
Ariarajah, Wesley. Current Trends in Ecumenical Thinking. Kottayam: Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius Memorial Orientation Center, 1992.
Arles, Siga. “Ecumenical Missiology: Challenges from an ‘Evangelical Perspective’.” Ecumenical Missiology Contemporary Trends, Issues and Themes. Edited by Lalsangkima Pachuau. Bangalore: The United Theological College, 2002.
Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission Paradigm Shift in Theology of Mission. Edited by Siga Arles. First Indian edition. Missiological Calssics Series 1. Bangalore: Centre for Contemporary Christianity, 2006.
Gorrell, Donald K. “Social Gospel Movement.” Edited by Nicholas Lossky, José Míguez Bonino, and John Pobee. Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement. Geneva: WCC Publications, 2002.
Greenway, Roger S. “The Cultural Mandate.” Edited by A. Scott Moreau. Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000.
Mare, W Harold. “Cultural mandate and the New Testament gospel imperative.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 16, no. 3 (June 1, 1973): 139-147.
Minear, Paul Sevier. “Vocation of the church : some exegetical clues.” Missiology 5, no. 1 (January 1, 1977): 13-37.
Mounce, R. H. “Gopel.” Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984.
Omanson, R. L. “Church, the.” Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984.
Rouse, Ruth, and Stephen Neil. A History of Ecumenical Movement. London: ISPCK, 1954.
Snaitang, O. L. A History of Ecumenical Movement: An Introduction. Bangalore: BTESSC/SATHRI, 2010.
Stott, john. Christian Mission In the Modern World. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975.
Thomas, Jacob. From Lausanne to Manila: Evangelical Social Thought. Delhi: ISPCK, 2003.
Vander Meulen, Peter. “The Church and Social Justice.” Calvin Theological Journal 34, no. 1 (April 1, 1999): 202-206.
White, Jr., R. C. “Gospel, Social Implications of.” Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984.
 John Stott, Christian Mission In the Modern World (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), 20.
 R. L Omanson, “Church, the,” ed. Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 231.
 Dietrich Bonhoffer as cited in David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission Paradigm Shift in Theology of Mission (ed. Siga Arles; First Indian edition. Missiological Calssics Series 1; Bangalore: Centre for Contemporary Christianity, 2006), 469.
 R. H. Mounce, “Gopel,” ed. Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 472.
 R. C White, Jr., “Gospel, Social Implications of,” ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 474.
 Bosch, Transforming Mission Paradigm Shift in Theology of Mission, 505.
 Jacob Thomas, From Lausanne to Manila: Evangelical Social Thought (Delhi: ISPCK, 2003).
 Wesley Ariarajah, Current Trends in Ecumenical Thinking (Kottayam: Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius Memorial Orientation Center, 1992), 1.
 Stott, Christian Mission In the Modern World, 29.
 Thomas, From Lausanne to Manila: Evangelical Social Thought, 3.
 Ibid., 1.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 3-4.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ruth Rouse and Stephen Neil, A History of Ecumenical Movement (London: ISPCK, 1954), 310.
 Thomas, From Lausanne to Manila: Evangelical Social Thought, 21.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 35.
 Ibid., 37.
 Sunday Aigbe, “Cultural Mandate, Evangelistic Mandate, Prophetic Mandate: of these the Greatest is…?,” Missiology: An International Review XIX, no. 1 (1991): 33.
 Herman Dooyeweerd as cited by W Harold Mare, “Cultural mandate and the New Testament gospel imperative.,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 16, no. 3 (June 1, 1973): 139, opines that the cultural development would have not taken place if Jesus Christ had not become an spiritual inspiration and an ultimate end of the world history.
 Donald K Gorrell, “Social Gospel Movement,” ed. Nicholas Lossky, José Míguez Bonino, and John Pobee, etal., Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement (Geneva: WCC Publications, 2002), 1044.
 Roger S. Greenway, “The Cultural Mandate,” ed. A. Scott Moreau, Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 251-252.
 Ibid., 251.
 The formation of the WCC is considered as an “ecumenical achievement par excellence” by O. L. Snaitang, A History of Ecumenical Movement: An Introduction, (Banglore: BTESSC/ SATHRI, 2010), 130. Four interdenominational bodies came forward to form WCC- the IMC, Life and Work, Faith and Order and world Council of Christian Education (WCCE). However, it was Life and Work and the Faith and Order that led to the formation of WCC in 1948 and later on IMC and WCCE followed respectively. WCC was first inaugurated on 23rd August 1948.
 O. L Snaitang, A History of Ecumenical Movement: An Introduction (Bangalore: BTESSC/SATHRI, 2010), 132.
 Ibid., 136.
 The International Missionary council has joined WCC and was included under the department of World Mission and Evangelism. Ibid., 137.
 Ibid., 138.
 Ibid., 139.
 Ibid., 140.
 Ibid., 141.
 Siga Arles, “Ecumenical Missiology: Challenges from an ‘Evangelical Perspective’,” in Ecumenical Missiology Contemporary Trends, Issues and Themes (ed. Lalsangkima Pachuau; Bangalore: The United Theological College, 2002), 57-59.
 Stott, Christian Mission In the Modern World, 20.
 Ibid., 34.
 Bosch, Transforming Mission Paradigm Shift in Theology of Mission, 511.
 Paul Sevier Minear, “Vocation of the church : some exegetical clues.,” Missiology 5, no. 1 (January 1, 1977): 26.
 Arles, “Ecumenical Missiology: Challenges from an ‘Evangelical Perspective’,” 64.
 Minear, “Vocation of the church,” 5:27-29.
 Peter Vander Meulen, “The Church and Social Justice.,” Calvin Theological Journal 34, no. 1 (April 1, 1999): 202.